PNT to Oroville

Cumulative Miles Hiked: 482

8/5 Skipped a ton of road walking out of Oroville. Dan drove me to 6200’ so it’s a bit of a shock to the system, from blazing hot to pleasantly cool, from low to high(er), from bugless to voracious and noisy mosquitoes and flies. Lots of short haul backpackers out here, nice to see them.

8/6 I woke to a soaking wet tent, a lot of condensation since I camped next to a creek. It’s cool up here but the trail is beautifully designed and maintained. I made it to the historic Tungsten Mine and cabins for lunch, then it started to rain. And rained. For 3 hours over spectacular Cathedral Pass where the wind hit me and my hands got too cold for photos. Guess I’ll have to go back! I hiked down a bit lower before the ranger station and camped, crawled into my bag to warm up as the rain died and the wind didn’t. The rain cut the dust, the Pasayten is beautiful and Cathedral Pass reminded me of a kinder, shorter Pinchot Pass but with uniquely gorgeous rock formations.

Not as rusty as my old mine saw

8/7 I wore all my layers until 11 am. There were some beautiful views but the trail is not what it was. Burn area forever. Oh well. Dead trees, down trees, fried soil turned to ashy sand, no visible path in places. I got some water then found a flat stand of green trees off the trail for a peaceful night. Didn’t get as far as I wanted, so it goes.

8/8 I was in a cloud till 10, so there was no view from Bunker Hill. The blowdown burn area went on forever. In the heat and view less burn area coming down from Bunker Hill, I counted over 150 blowdowns an hour, all day long. Practice clambering over, under and around them makes perfect.

Finally I turned up from the old Pasayten Airfield into a lush living forest. Instant happiness even though I hiked another 7.8 miles just to find a tent site, a sweet little spot out of the blowdowns right next to the trail but with no dead trees threatening to fall on me. And with an annoying babbling stream talking at me all night. Took nearly 12 hours but I made my required average miles, 18, so as not to run out of food over the next couple of days.

See the sign for the trail junction?
Mellow stuff

8/9 Blowdown Showdown! I’ve invented a hiker contest.

All due credit for the name goes to Jason Borgstede, pro snowboarder and business owner (Blue&Gold Boardshop in Anchorage, Alaska—go there for all gear needed to slide sideways, summer or winter) who holds the Throwdown Showdown event for boarders every winter at Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood, Alaska.

Full disclosure: I declare myself the winner of my age group. Here’s how I did it. Basically it’s a freestyle event—you get points for getting through massive sections of blowdowns using a variety of skills, tricks and techniques. As this event grows and develops you may get bonus points for naming maneuvers. Getting through faster than another hiker gets bonus points, which may be offset though by excessive blood loss.

Try these for starters: Step over the little logs regular, then goofy. Limbo under larger logs. Belly slide under, then slide on your back face up. Creep on all fours, crawl on your knees. Lever your way over like mounting a horse, both feet off the ground. Now get on the horse from the wrong side. For those big piled up log jams, pressure your feet like a climber as you attempt to scale and see over 14’ of tangled branches, pine needles and busted up trees. With hands and without hands. What else can you come up with? No holds barred! Uh, literally.

More blowdowns, hours of them, and 3 big switchback climbs. After 3 days of nearly nonstop blowdowns, I reached the PCT! Tread, real tread, level tread, well designed tread, I nearly kissed that tread. I love the PCT. You really appreciate good trail when you’ve been dealing with not good trail for so long. Like I learned to appreciate a decent dirt road walk on the CDT. And carrying water weight in the desert.

Now that I was on the PCT, I met tons of people, a couple that said they’d started at the southern border in March. I didn’t ask about the Sierra because it sure seemed like enough time had passed for a NOBO thru hike! From Sweden, they said they flew from Europe 2 days before the travel ban. Cool!

I kept going, ecstatic to be back in the North Cascades, such views! I dry camped alone, despite the dozens of hikers I’d seen, at the junction of the PNT and PCT, completing the 14 miles the trails share.

8/10 Last day for the PNT this year and it was all PCT. 14 miles to Hart’s Pass where we’d started the PCT SOBO a few years ago, walking from Hart’s to the Canadian Border 30 miles away, and then turned around and headed back south for good.

Today in the 6 1/2 hours I was on the trail, I counted 39 humans coming towards me (including 1 baby which in some cultures is considered not quite human until age 5 or 6), 9 dogs, and 4 humans going my way, only 1 of which passed me.

PCT, I love you!

And then, back in the van for a few days, visiting Dave and Teresa in Chewelah and meeting Natasha at Hidden Mother Brewery in Spokane. And on a plane 8/14, me to the Sierra, Dan back home to Alaska.

Republic x 3 to Oroville

Cumulative miles hiked: 381.8

Took a zero in Omak. On the way there we passed the sage fire near Tonasket, driving by as a plane dropped retardant, helicopters were sling loading water buckets and multiple fire departments had their trucks and fire fighters mobilized.. Because of Covid, Dan’s birthday dinner was a takeout tuna salad sandwich from Subway. The next day we visited Rockwall Winery, a lovely building amongst fruit trees.

7/30 We drove back through Republic to where trail started uphill from a little campground on Hwy 21. Talked with a guy who had been car camping there for a week and headed up the trail. After a couple miles it joined a gravel road for the rest of the day. I picked up 3 liters of water and carried them until I found a campsite past a junction above the road. A few cars passed by, invisible.

7/31 Fun morning, easy walking on the road, 12 miles in 4 hours! I saw One Gallon’s footprints ahead in the dust. About an hour into the morning, I took a water break in the shade and saw Gasket behind me. We walked and talked the rest of the way to Highway 20 where Dan soon arrived in the van. One of the things I love about hiking is getting to know people I’d never get to talk with in real life, about real stuff, deeply revealing. Gasket is awesome. We all donned our masks for the drive to breakfast at the Knotty Pine in Republic. Then we gave Gasket and One Gallon a ride back to the trail angel Artie’s where everybody has been staying, off and on, since there are 3 different road crossings, all leading to Republic. Goose and Cruise were there, Goose is recovering from a nasty rash and GI trouble, but he’s looking much recovered!

Dan took me back to trail after our breakfast break in Republic. The rest are staying another night in Republic. The hike out was uphill on trail, hot of course, but not a road walk. I managed another 5 miles for a 17 mile day. No place to camp but I managed another creative pitch with a view to the west and settled in.

8/1 So there were numerous comments about the creepiness of the private property signs where the trail joined some roads. Skulls on fences, the typical signs telling me trespassers would be shot twice, junk yards of rotting cars, etc. I heard a dog barking way in the distance but the only one I saw was a bird dog taking herself for a walk. She glanced at me and continued down to her house. No dogs at the numerous private properties tells me nobody is home. I wouldn’t live out here without a dog early warning system in place, just saying. The property owners can’t shoot trespassers if they’re not here to shoot them.

It was hot today as I hiked from trail to gravel to paved to gravel. I pretty much hated this trail today. Stupid route, at one spot, the “primary” turned off perfectly good gravel to an abandoned (remember that means blowdown covered formerly-known- as road) so I looked at a map and kept going a few hundred yards to a dirt road, cleared, shorter, no traffic, that joined back up with the main road. Good choice!

I walked into the Bonaparte Lake campground to where the van was! It didn’t cool off till 8:45 and I still had to eat freeze dried dinner but the company was good. Really nice spot Dan got away from the crowds. And I like this place, kids laughing as they swim and paddle around, largish people walking along the campground road getting their exercise, just a good vibe.

8/2 I walked through the campground to the trailhead. It was good trail to the Bonaparte Lookout alternate. I’ve been excited to see this place. The historic lookout was built in 1914, and the new lookout is staffed, one of the very few still in operation. It was a lot of uphill (duh, lookouts have to be on top of something) but I made it by 12:30. I spent quite a bit of time talking with lookout Jim Watkins, really enjoyable and interesting.

Finally I went back down the trail and eventually joined a nice soft road with Nordic ski trail signs. I had enough water and debated with myself for hours about whether to camp early up in the forest or to continue to Havillah and camp on the church grounds with access to water and a bathroom, I’d get there around dinner time. I’m the only hiker in the area so it’d just be me there. Lookout Jim assured me that Covid wouldn’t stop the church people from being trail angels.

The soft road turned to gravel and cow-calf country. I’m not camping with cows if I can help it, people on foot freak them out, plus—cow pies. And now there are barbed wire fences and cars so no camping. I got to the junction for Havillah, and a sign saying the church (a beautiful white steepled structure a quarter mile ahead) was “Closed to PNT hikers due to Covid concerns.” It was 5:30 and I am now between barbed wire protecting the creek to my left and private property on my right. I freaked out a bit but kept going, knowing it was another 6 miles of gravel road to public land. It was hot, I was tired and hungry and the prosperous looking mini ranches and pastures pissed me off. I face up belly scooted under the fence and got camping water from the creek below and continued another hour, grumbling. And then a dip in the road, mashed down fence to my left and Ponderosa pine and sage brush, not pasture. Whatever a private wildlife refuge is, there couldn’t be anything menacing left in it with a mashed down fence. I camped out of sight of the road in the heavenly smelling sage. So much for Jim reassuring me the church would not close to hikers. Oops, maybe the trail angels in Republic knew, my bad.

8/3 The 19 miles to US 97 outside Oroville took me till 2pm, not a bad day! Gravel to dirt road to trail, almost all downhill although the heat was intense. And there was Dan looking up the trail for me! Dinner at the Oroville Brewery was outstanding—the best coleslaw I’ve ever had. Clyde at the Camaray Motel was very welcoming and gave us the hiker rate and free laundry.

8/4 Zero! Visited Esther’s local winery and the lake park, drove up the “trail” in 100 degree heat, saw One Gallon using the WiFi in front of the library, and got to pet the town cat, who was walking down the sidewalk behind a random couple while proudly carrying a dead mouse. Take out pizza for dinner.

PNT to US 395 to Republic

Cumulative miles hiked: 312.9

7/22 l got dropped off on the edge of the pavement from Metaline Falls at 9 am after a breakfast cooked by Dave. I hiked way farther than I’d intended but it was good dirt road to good trail. There were campsites galore at the top of the climb but it was 3:30 in the afternoon. The PNT digest or guide book claimed there were flat sites in a saddle a few miles down the other side. As happens all too often, that was bad information. The saddle was completely covered in fallen or felled trees, I’d have had to do a major log removal operation to create a patch to sit in. So I kept going to the next listed spot, a primitive USFS campground at the bottom of the trail and junction with the next “forest road.” Camped at 7:30 in an eerily deserted campground. I don’t know why it weirds me out to be in an empty campground with road access and no people.

7/23 I walked 4 quick forest road miles to pavement. Road miles are quick and that helps. It’s interesting walking through ranch country with cows and horses behind barbed wire fences, and there were few cars. After awhile though slapping your feet flat down over and over hurts. I got a new blister on the end of a toe and my left shin started to ache. But an old red dump truck came up behind me, stopped and the driver leaned out with a bottle of water for me. Kindness! I grinned and accepted although I didn’t need it. As the miles went on, I turned onto the highway paralleling the Columbia River and it got hotter and hotter, with the uphill side all Private Property and the downhill side bordered by train tracks and the river. Where would I be able to camp? I satellite messaged Dan my dilemma and he found me a perfect little cabin in Northport for the night, so my attitude improved. I knew I had a bed and shower at the end of a hot, painful 22 mile day.

Is there anybody else besides me who can manage to fall on flat blacktop? Admiring the Columbia River, I failed to notice a little rockfall on the road and tripped on a loose rock, went down and got a bloody knee. I spent my entire girlhood with scabby knees and frequently with scabby elbows too. So scars on scars on scars. Fortunately, there were no cars at the time to freak out at the sight or hear the single word obscenity I yelled. A few minutes later, mini poodle Paisley came running and barking down her driveway to put her little paws on my leg and get a pat. Her mom followed and offered me water from her tap. She said they hadn’t seen any hikers this year and were pretty excited when I said there were at least a dozen maybe half a day behind me.

The walk wasn’t horrible until the last 6 miles of pavement into Northport. Hot, so hot, no shade, uphill. And then, my little cottage appeared as I got to town. I called the owner, got the key code, went inside, showered, rinsed my disgusting clothes, cooked my instant dinner and didn’t emerge till the next morning. So happy!

7/24 Road walk again, at least it wasn’t paved and there were pleasant clouds in the morning. My feet and legs hurt again by 3pm from the pounding, oh well—I much prefer dirt to pavement and I made 23 miles by dinner time. I camped in a weird place down a blocked and abandoned road, out of sight of the road and the occasional dirt biker buzzing on it. And cows today! I love cows, the baffled stares they give me, the calves freaking out and trotting.

7/25 Dan got me near the 395 after about 4 miles and took me for the night to Dave’s in Chewelah. His awesome grandson Tanner was there and I really enjoyed talking with him over dinner outside at the golf club. He’s 12, loved the time he got to go snowboarding last winter and really wants to learn to skateboard. It’s a high probability that he won’t get in-person school this fall, which really bums him out, but when he started talking about learning to skate, he lit up!

7/26 Back to the trail the next morning, or as the photos show, “non trail.” After a bunch of miles up dirt roads on the west side of 395, the route goes on an abandoned, obliterated road, politely described on the maps as not maintained. These 2 miles are my (so far) fourth place nominee for worst PNT blowdown section. After a brief stretch of double track, I walked on my second place nominee (first place for all time will be the blowdown east of Eureka, MT). It transitioned to double track for a bit, crossed Boulder Creek Road, and became the well trod Kettle Crest Trail. All day I was in burn area, as far as the eye can see behind and ahead. I camped by a fire ring in dead trees, hopefully nothing falls on me, but what else can I do? Hot as hell today too.

7/27 I took a picture of last nights camp and then came across a lovely alternative bed, if only I’d known.

I walked through the burn until noon when I got into living trees. And then the bear yodel.

“One Gallon, what are you doing behind me?”

“Zero’d in Metaline Falls and zero’d in Northpoint too!”

Then Gasket, Goose and Cruise caught up. We chatted by a fenced spring piped to a cattle tank. Nice to have hikers to talk to again! The Kettle Crest Trail was good and clear the rest of the day. Hot!

7/28 Happy Birthday, GranDan!

Dan met One Gallon and me at Sherman Pass and took us to Republic and breakfast at the Knotty Pine. I’ll take a zero, skip the section between Hwy 20 and Hwy 21, then get back on.